In 2013, British group London Grammar crashed into the indie pop scene with their debut album If You Wait. If You Wait was perfectly moody, full of atmospheric undertones, melancholy guitar, and emotive sounds of piano reminiscent of the Romantic era of classical music. The album was a perfect introduction to vocalist Hannah Reid, whose brooding and powerful vocals led the songs within, guitarist Dan Rothman, and pianist Dominic Major. When I first listened to If You Wait, I had no idea how long of a hiatus was to come.
Four years later, London Grammar have released a sophomore album, titled Truth Is A Beautiful Thing. Now, I’m not completely sure what London Grammar have been doing for these long four years. In the time that the band could have released new music, the Malaysia Airlines Flight disappeared, Bruce became Caitlyn, Brexit, Donald Trump became President, Angelina and Brad broke up – the list could go on and on. While the Earth has been turning and the world has been changing, London Grammar seem stagnant; their second release feels like overkill, a less-good, tiresome memory of the past.
Truth Is A Beautiful Thing starts off with Rooting For You, which the band released as the first single for the album. Rooting For You is slow and ambient, an unconventional choice to kick off an album. The song spotlights Reid’s vocals more than anything else; Rooting For You plays as an intimate conversation between Reid and the listener. When Reid chillingly sings, “And my darlin’, I’ll be rooting for you”, and Rothman plays a subtly optimistic guitar riff, the music leaves an impression.
Next up is Big Picture, the second single released by the trio. (Disclaimer: Before I continue, I want to say that both Rooting For You and Big Picture made me falsely excited about this album.) Big Picture showcases every member of the band; the track opens with a short piano solo, followed by Reid’s vocals, and a consistent guitar riff by Rothman. When the song picks up, Big Picture is bittersweet, but hopeful. The song sounds like a promising return for London Grammar.
Hell to the Liars, the fifth song on the album, sums up what is wrong with Truth Is A Beautiful Thing as a whole. At around six minutes (too) long, Hell to the Liars doesn’t sound like just a song, it sounds like an experience, a piece of triumphant music from a film score, not an indie-pop album. There is a striking disconnect between Reid’s vocals and the inflated strings and processional beat that accompany her, and Rothman’s guitar and Major’s keys, part of what makes London Grammar so great, get lost in the overblown production of the song. This happens again and again on Truth Is A Beautiful Thing, with Non-Believer, Leave the War With Me, and Control, to name a few. Hell to the Liars isn’t even the worst offender. London Grammar truly gets lost at Bones of the Ribbon. From that point on, each song blends into the other, and the album becomes background music.
London Grammar are still a young band, and I’d still like to see what time has in store for them. But, maybe not four years. Let’s make it less than that.
Picks:Rooting For You, Big Picture, Oh Woman Oh Man